Iraq says 20,000 Saddam Hussein—era army officers will rejoin the military after being dismissed from their posts after the 2003 U.S.—led invasion for serving under the former dictator.

Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammed al—Askari, said on Friday the reinstatement will begin immediately.

The move comes just over a week before national elections the U.S. hopes will help bring together Iraq’s rival religious factions.

Prime Minister Nouri al—Maliki, and other Shiite politicians have been criticized for unfairly targeting former members of Saddam’s ruling Baath Party.

Rival Sunni lawmaker Maysoun Damlouji,says the reinstatement is a blatant ploy by al—Maliki to win more votes on March 7.

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